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Vonnegut Hardware Company

Clemens Vonnegut, Sr., a German former textile salesman in Amsterdam, arrived in Indianapolis in 1850 and entered into a partnership with fellow German Charles Vollmer shortly thereafter. Their merchandising store was called Vollmer & Vonnegut. Vollmer left to go out West in 1852 but was never heard from again.[1] In 1858, Vonnegut bought the merchandise store he and his business partner Charles Volmer had run for several years. In 1898 Vonnegut, Sr. moved the business to 120 and 124 East Washington Street. Vonnegut, Sr. would remain president of the company until his death in 1906. In 1908 the store was incorporated as the Vonnegut Hardware Company. His business was located in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana and would remain a fixture for over 100 years.

Vonnegut Hardware Store
Hardware Store
FounderCharles Vollmer and Clemens Vonnegut Sr.
United States
Area served
Indiana and the American West
Clemens Vonnegut Sr., photographed c.1885

Over time his sons had various interests in the company; some long-term and some only briefly.


  • In 1869 Clemens Vonnegut, Jr. (eldest son) began working at the hardware store then left in 1890. He returned in 1910 and became Vice President of the company. (His brother, Bernard Vonnegut Sr., worked at the firm briefly)
  • Bernard Vonnegut (second son) would have no interest in his father's company and ultimately choose a different career path, as an architect. The author Kurt Vonnegut was Bernard's grandson.[2]
  • In 1908 Franklin "Frank" Vonnegut (third son) took over as the company's president.
  • George Vonnegut (youngest son) would become the secretary and treasurer of the company.
  • Carl Prinzler, co-inventor of the Von Duprin panic bar device, was manager of the builder's hardware department in 1903.


  1. ^ Carl Runyon Clemens Vonnegut Sr.
  2. ^ John G. Rauch, "An Account of the Ancestry of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., by an Ancient Friend of His Family", in Kurt Vonnegut, Palm Sunday: an Autobiographical Collage (1981).

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